30 September 2007

50 simple things

For most people, myself included, the transition to simple living is quite a long period of time. The idea is formed that it might be a possibility, plans are made, compromises discussed and then it's often a series of small steps until you're really there, living simply every day.

So I thought it might be useful to make a list of simple steps that are all elements of simple living, can be started as small projects, and when bundled together, will make an excellent entry to your simple life. Some are easy, some aren't, but all are worth a try because they will help you, one step at a time, live the kind of life you want. And remember, the way I live, might be different to the kind of simple life you want for yourself. You have to plan your own life and hopefully these steps will help you devise your plan and walk your path.

I've already written about convincing your partner, and I am well aware that often it's one person who starts on the road to simplicity, then takes the whole family with them, in varying degrees of compliance. This list could help you convince your partner or the family, that making life style change is achievable and these small steps will bring it closer.

You might like to print out the list - or modify it to include things you need to do - and show it to your family. See what they are willing to do or if they have any suggestions about what to add, or how to go about your transition.
  1. Stop spending on wants - this is ALWAYS at the top of the list.
  2. Write up a spending plan/budget that will show you where you stand financially.
  3. Pay off debt. The previous step will help with this.
  4. Declutter your home.
  5. Give away or sell everything that is not useful or precious to you.
  6. Give more and expect less.
  7. Smile.
  8. Start a change jar.
  9. Start an emergency fund.
  10. Learn how to bake bread.
  11. Learn how to make preserves.
  12. Grow some of your own food, even if it's sprouts. Everyone can grow something.
  13. Use up all your chemical cleaners and start a green cleaning routine.
  14. Conserve electricity.
  15. Conserve water.
  16. Learn how to read your electricity and water metres.
  17. Stop using the car for short trips. Make every trip out count and do as much as you can so you can cut down on the number kilometres/miles you drive.
  18. Stop buying disposable products.
  19. Stop accepting plastic carry bags at the shops.
  20. Make your own cotton shopping bags.
  21. Make sure you take your shopping bags with you every time you go out.
  22. Learn how to make simple cheese.
  23. Shop locally and support your local neighbourhood.
  24. Be generous.
  25. Keep some chickens in your back yard for eggs, and if you eat meat, for meat.
  26. Plant fruit trees.
  27. Learn how to make soap.
  28. Grow loofahs.
  29. Slow down and relax. The world will not stop if you have a break.
  30. Teach your children well. You are their role model, be the person you want them to be.
  31. Learn how to mend clothes.
  32. Learn to knit.
  33. Cook from scratch. This means cooking from non-processed foods, not cooking with tinned soups and mixes.
  34. Get rid of toxic friends. They will drain the living daylights out of you.
  35. Start making gifts for friends.
  36. Change your idea of what success is.
  37. Reinvent yourself. Do something different today.
  38. Get rid of as many spray cans as possible in your home. Make your own products and put them in pump bottles.
  39. Make an apron.
  40. Wear it.
  41. Explain what you're trying to do to your children.
  42. Tell as many people as you can what you're doing, and why.
  43. Reduce the amount of everything you use. Less salt, less sugar, less meat, less butter, less bread, less fuel, less electricity, fewer clothes and shoes.
  44. Increase the amount of things you do for others. Generosity always returns to you.
  45. Stockpile and shop mindfully for groceries.
  46. Talk to your neighbours. Try to develop a friendly and helpful relationship with them.
  47. Talk to your children. Ask them what they think about global warming, I bet they surprise you.
  48. Save seeds from heirloom vegetables. Unless we do this, our old vegetables will disappear under the weight of corporatised hybrid vegetables, and you will have to buy new seeds every year.
  49. Keep pure breed chickens. They, like the hybrid vegies, are in danger of being lost with hybrid chickens just bred to lay eggs, and not to go broody and raise chicks.
  50. And finally, as that wise man, Mahatma Gandhi once said: be the change you want to see in the world.


Vegetable gardening

We find the most difficult thing to manage in our garden is the continuity of supply. We go alright for a while, then it all falls apart. Currently the garden looks bare because we thought we still had a bit to go before the warm weather, then all of a sudden it was warm. Pfffft! The seeds weren't even sown! So a couple of weeks ago, I set to sowing seeds in pots and trays and in the garden. Some in the garden are starting to come up and the tray seeds are almost ready to pot on now. But we are having to buy capsicums and tomatoes - ugh. Store bought tomatoes are not good.

Above is an overview of the garden taken yesterday morning. In the first garden (that's a bird feeder that looks like it's in the middle of the garden, but isn't) we have radishes and the last of Hanno's kale. At the end of this garden we've planted Golden Nugget pumpkin. Like most hot weather gardeners, we have water containers everywhere.

This garden has some silverbeet (swiss chard), capsicums (peppers) and bok choy (chinese cabbage). At the end of this garden are carrots, french radishes, beetroot, eggplant, two different lettuces and celery. In the garden behind there are potatoes under straw, a lone pineapple and one of the last cabbages. Oh, and a clump of old fashioned nasturtiums - a yellow one with red splashes. It's been left there so I can collect seeds from it. That row of green, in the next garden behind the potatoes, are blue lake beans. I've just been out watering the garden before the sun hits it and noticed the first of the potatoes are coming up. They're Dutch Creams.

The Richmond Green Apple cucumber is growing nicely with the first flowers just starting to form. This is a delicious old Australian variety that was very popular when I was growing up.

The silverbeet freak. This silverbeet is almost a metre (3') tall. It's the only one in the old crop of silverbeet to grow this high. I wish I could collect seeds from this little beauty but silverbeet never flowers here.

We've harvested cabbages from these bare spaces, just a few remain. Today I'll be pulling out the rest of the English spinach (right-hand corner), which is starting to flower, and will give it to the chooks to eat. They love spinach. In the photo above you can see foodhook zucchini coming up as well as daikon radish at the back and some herbs at the front. Rhonda Gay gave me the seed for the vine on the right. It's some sort of Asian gourd.

Here we have a young group of silverbeet, with bok choy at the top. We use a lot of silverbeet and have it growing year round. Whatever we don't eat, the chooks have. Giving them dark green leaves like silverbeet and spinach gives their egg yolks a dark golden yellow colour. Today, these little babies, and the rest of the leafy vegies, will be getting a drink of worm tea.

This is the potato patch again. It's the only part of our garden we put under straw, as now the drought's in full swing, it's almost impossible to find straw or lucerne hay at a reasonable price. We usually buy about 12 bales of mulch a year, and supplement that with what we grow in the garden, like pigeon pea and lawn clippings. We have one bale left from our last purchase and we're saving that for the potatoes, with a small portion going to the tomatoes I have growing in pots. I have four tomatoes in pots, one Brandywine, an Amish paste and (I think) two Mortgage Lifters. In the aquaponics garden, I have Brandywines, Amish paste and some Sweet Bites. In the bottom of the above photo you can also see Judi B's amazing onions. She has sent them to so many people, I'm sure they must be taking over Australian backyards by now. A quiet revolution. I hope to cut them back today as they're dying down after flowering and have been attacked by aphids. When they do that each year, it's time to transplant them.

Right outside the vegetable garden, along the picket fence, we're growing Sunshine Blue and Rabbit Ears blueberries. They're in full flower now and starting to produce fruit again. It takes blueberries a while to establish here, as our weather is so warm, but each year these bushes get a little bigger and give us more fruit. Small steps.

And finally, here is a view of our house from the garden. You can see our small water tank (5000 litres), the aquaponics system and behind the lattice, is my greenhouse. If you click on this photo to enlarge it, you'll see this is the back verandah of a functional house, not a place for entertainment. Although we did have my 50th birthday party there with about 50 people sitting at tables with flowers and candles glowing in the twilight. Now we're more practical and our home reflects that. You can see a wheelbarrow waiting to carry a load, a disconnected pay TV satellite dish on the roof, some skylights to light rooms with sunlight and not electricity. Just out of sight is a solar hot water system. Look carefully and you'll also see clothes racks for drying when it's raining, plants waiting to be taken inside and fruit and vegies waiting to have seeds collected or to be planted. It's not a pretty site, but it works well for us. Oh, and that window behind the white clothes rack is where I'm now sitting typing this. : )


29 September 2007

Simple sounds

I never tire of the simple sounds of my home and garden. I suppose noise is that sound most people don't want to hear, but I welcome most of that too. But not television. In fact, television noise was what triggered this post. Hanno was watching something on ABC 2 that was repeated from last night. He then went outside, leaving the TV on. grrrrrrrrrr! Don't you hate that! I went in and turned it off, then immediately heard the sound of a Sacred Kingfisher as it was flying past. Noise can sometimes mask sounds.

At this very moment, I can hear the sound of my washing machine spinning through its last cycle; I can hear geese honking on the pond; there is a chook clucking after laying an egg. Hanno is outside tidying up the edges of the lawn, I hear the clink of the steel spade against the edge of the path. Airedale Alice is inside and when she walks up to me, I hear her claws on the wooden floors; they sound like tap shoes.

Pee Wees are calling, a train goes by in the distance, the phone rings. It's Kerry, he's not well and he always has to tell his mum when he's sick. He has a virus. I listen to him as he tells me about his new girlfriend - a Korean girl called Kai Lin (I hope that spelling is close). We end our conversation with me telling him to look after himself and to drink plenty of water, and him telling me not to worry.

But I do.

A car drives in, it's Jens, my step son, coming to borrow the trailer for a trip to the rubbish dump. I hear him and Hanno talking about the football. Apparently there is the grand final of something on today. Yawn.

Silence, I hear the soft buzzing of my computer. Rosie barks, and the kingfisher flies past again with the mad screech that sounds like the music from Psycho. I can't work out why a tiny bird with such a lovely name and blue feathers, would sound like that. Another of nature's wonders.

I can tell the time with the sounds around here. In the morning I hear the children going to school and know it's 8.30ish, they mark my time again when they return home at three. The postman comes on his bike at 10.30, our next door neighbours return from work at 5. It's a gentle way to tell the time and as I never wear a watch now (I gave them all away when I stopped working) and rarely look at a clock, these simple sounds keep me on track through out my day.

King parrots are calling - I see three of them, they're about to eat some pigeon peas and peaches in our garden. That's ok, I'm happy to share as I know a lot of their habitat has been taken. Their sounds bring Hanno back into the yard again and he yells out, "Rhonda! king parrots in the back yard!" I pretend I don't know they're there and take my camera out to take a photo.
There are two king parrots in this photo. See if you can find them. 

Click as I plug in the cable connecting the camera to the computer, click, click click. Photos are in the computer. Resize, tap tap. And I finish typing this. These tappings are the sounds that connect me to you - these are sounds I like.
He's started the lawn mower. Ack. I smell biscuits cooking. Time to hear the kettle boil and to experience the sound of crunching into a walnut biscuit.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Thank you for sharing your day with me.

A Spring afternoon

I took you all with me yesterday. I went to my friend Bernadette's home to pick up some cuttings and then down the road a bit to a meeting in Maleny. This is Mountain View Road, I didn't take a photo of the Glasshouse Mountains, which were behind me, but of a big new home and paddocks under construction. These horse heads are on both sides of the entrance but I couldn't fit them both in my photo.

Then I wandered on, down hill and dale, past contented moo cows.

Along pretty lanes where the verbena was shining in the afternoon sun.

Past palatial homes.

and pretty cottages ...

and gardens...

and into Bernadette's street.

After my visit, I went into Maleny to collect some seeds. This is the main street - Maple Street.

This is the supermarket I shop at when I don't go to Aldi. It's the original shop built about 100 years ago. Woolworths is down the road on Obi Obi Creek - a platypus habitat > : (
And here is the famous Upfront Club and Co-op that have been operating successfully as local co-ops for many years.

I was going to take more photos after the meeting, but it was too dark when I came home. I hope you've enjoyed this little peek into my afternoon. I'll be back later with another post.


28 September 2007

A special day

I met Hanno on my 28th birthday, he was 37. He was recovering from a divorce and the death of his daughter. Two years later we were married at the registry office in Hamburg, Germany. Today is our 28th wedding anniversary.

Here we are on 28.9.1979, a couple of dags about to get hitched. We didn't have much money so it was just Hanno and I and our witnesses at the ceremony. We invited family and friends to a celebration at home later in the day.

Like every marriage, ours has had its up and downs. We both have strong personalities and have fought like Kilkenny cats over the years but now that I look back, it's been a good marriage, and stable from the start. Although I grew up not wanting to get married, when I tied the knot, I went into it knowing it was forever. For me, there was no going back.

I think that's one reason why our marriage has survived, we knew it would be tough at times but we weren't going to walk away when it was. There was also love, respect and trust along with the commitment, and those four important elements held us together in the rocky times. Our sons were the icing on our cake. They taught us all we now know about patience, pride, gratitude, understanding and unconditional love.

It's really easy now. We fit together like a pair of old gloves. Oh, we still argue sometimes about silly things but those arguments are forgotten ten minutes later. Our lives have developed a kind of relaxed easiness. We are living in a beautiful part of the world, our days are ours to do with as we want, and we enjoy each other's company. We've grown into that, it's like the payoff for the times that were difficult. I knew that Hanno and I would be together forever, but I didn't think it would get better every year and I didn't think it would be this good.

27 September 2007

Napkins and sauerkraut

The swapped napkins are starting to be received all over the world so I'll take this opportunity to remind everyone that the deadline for posting is next Monday. Also, when you receive your parcel, would you take a photo of what you receive and send it to me? I want to make up a post with as many of the napkins as I can manage. Thanks everyone.

This is a photo of the sauerkraut I made from our home grown cabbages. It's delicious. I put it in jars this morning and will store it in the fridge. The stone crock next to the sauerkraut is the container I made the sauerkraut in. I also use it to make ginger beer. After each job, I fill the crock with warm water and vinegar to take away any smell. The crock is simply the botton bit of a spring water container. If you find one of these at a garage sale, grab it. They're very handy in the kitchen.


Grocery shopping

Shopping! {shudder} I did my grocery shopping yesterday from the comfort of my own backyard. Let me explain - I wrote a shopping list, Hanno went shopping alone and I worked in the garden. Good eh? And now we're set for at least another month before we need to stock up again. I do pick up local milk and cream when I go to work each week, sometimes I also have to buy local fruit and vegetables, but the bulk of the groceries is taken care of for another month, at least. Phew.

I should add too that Hanno loves shopping to my list. He chooses exactly what is on the list when he's at Aldi and scans the bins for perfect fruit and vegetables. At the other supermarket, IGA (we refuse to shop at Woolworths and Coles), where we go to for items not at Aldi, he unit shops, which is the most frugal way to shop. Unit shopping is going beyond comparing the cost of different brands of the same product, it also takes into account the size or weight, as well as the price. When you unit shop, you break down the cost to the unit - be that gram, millilitre, ounce or pound, and buy the cheapest unit price. When he returns, yes there are a couple of things I didn't ask for, but very few, and the rest is exactly to the list.

Yesterday we stocked up on honey @ $2.99 per 500grams x 4 jars, red salmon 210 grams @ $3.49 x 4, tuna in spring water 425 grams @ $1.89 x 4 tins, sandwich tuna 185 grams @ 99 cents x 4 tins, tomatoes 1 kilo @ $1.99 x 2. granny smith apples 1 kilo @ $2.89, oranges 1 kilo @ 99 cents x 2, bananas $1.32, tasty cheese @ 1 kilo $5.49, cottage cheese 500 grams @ $2.49, butter 250 grams x 12 @ 99 cents $11.88, pasta @ 49 cents x 4, strawberries 500 grams @ 99 cents x 2, plus a number of other things. At Simply Good, our bulk food store we spent $31 on 12.5 kg of baker's flour, Iranian dates, Californian walnuts, 1 kg mixed dried fruit, 200 grams glace cherries and some yeast. We spent $16 on pet meat - we make our own dog food here using this $16 we will be able to make enough food for our two dogs for a month. Hanno also bought some meat for his last kale meal of the season - he loves smoked pork sausage and kassler with our fresh kale. That meal will last him 5 or 6 days, I eat salads and eggs when he enjoys his German feast. All up we spent $195 on food that has topped up our stockpile and will keep us eating well for at least the next month.

We could live on our stockpile for a few months if we had to. Stockpiling groceries is the best way to provide your food needs. You'll shop the specials and store those items in your stockpile cupboard, so over time you'll create your own little supermarket that you can shop at any time of the day or night without leaving your home. And when you've been shopping this way for a while, all your groceries will be at the best prices, and less than the normal retail price. You will also save time because instead of shopping weekly, or every couple of days, you go once a month, with quick trip in to the local shop to pick up your milk. If you have a productive vegetable garden and chickens, you'll be eating fresh organic food, complemented with what's in your stockpile cupboard and pantry. It's the best of both worlds - organic food served with freshly baked bread, rice, pasta, fish etc from your pantry, stockpile and freezer. Stockpiling is worth the effort, and if you have a husband who likes to shop carefully, you can do it all while planting celery and beetroot. ; )

26 September 2007

Goodbye friend

We lost a guiding light yesterday. After much thought, Jewels has decided to make her wonderful journal, Eyes of Wonder, private again. No public access.

While I completely understand her decision to protect herself and her family from the evil lurking on the internet, I regret losing her wisdom very much. Jewels taught us all, with grace and understanding, how to be a wife and mother. She did what all effective teachers do, she taught by example. Looking at her photos was like roaming through her house and garden. We all grew to know the family by name, we shared their joys and their sorrows, as well as the day-to-day activities of their everyday lives.

I can’t let this day pass by without a small comment on the love Jewels shared with people all round the world who didn’t know her, but felt they did. That was a nice thing to see and be a small part of. Jewels is a one off. So if you read this, Jewels, know that your words have inspired me, and I’m sure many others, to try to be better people, to hold our families close and to see the beautiful and joy in ordinary family life.


These are photos of some of my herbs, taken this morning. This is yarrow, borage, parsley, oregano, with daisies, to attract bees, in the background.

No home garden is complete without herbs. You can use them in your cooking and salads, for medicinal purposes and for crafts; you can make fertiliser and attract bees into the garden with herbs. Some herbs attract insects, some repel them. They're a very interesting group of plants.

A botanist's definition of a herb is a plant that doesn't have a permanent woody stem, like a tree or a shrub. To a gardener, a herb is a useful plant that can be used in cooking or for medicinal purposes. Gardener's use bay trees as herbs, and rosemary, which is a shrub. Even bananas are classed as herbs. It's confused to say the least, but no matter what your definition of herbs, they're great in the garden.


I grow herbs for cooking, to attract bees, to make fertiliser and to make tea. At the moment I'm growing the following: parsley, borage, lemon balm, mint, garlic, aloe vera, oregano, marjoram, nasturtiums, comfrey, curry plant, Italian thyme, yarrow, lavender and bay.

When growing herbs, they should be grown slowly so their flavours can develop fully. So don't keep pushing them along with fertiliser. Plant them in full sun, in good draining soil and apply a weak liquid fertiliser three weeks after planting, and again at 12 weeks. Flowering plants like lavender should be cut back after they flower, which, at the right time of year, will stimulate another flush of flowers.

Cut the green leaves from your comfrey clump and fill a bucket half full of leaves. Place a brick, or something heavy, on the leaves to keep them under the water. Fill the bucket to the top with water. Place a lid on the bucket - this stinks to high heaven when it's ready to use - and leave in a shaded place for three weeks. When you take the lid off, be prepared for a bad smell, but this brew is FULL of nitrogen.

To use, pour one litre (1 quart) of the mix into a nine litre (2½ gallon) bucket and fill with water. Pour this onto your plants that need a nitrogen boost, like lettuce, spinach and the leafy vegetables. Pour any left overs onto your compost, it speeds up decomposition of decaying plant material.


Comfrey is grown from root cuttings and it loves slightly moist conditions. When you plant comfrey, make sure you choose a space where it can grow forever. Comfrey doesn't run, like bamboo, but it forms a nice big clump and the tiniest piece of root will regenerate. So if you try to remove it and leave any piece of plant behind, it will regrow.

Chop up 100 grams (3½ oz) of garlic cloves and mix with 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. Leave to infuse for 48 hours. Dissolve 2½ tablespoons of pure soap (homemade is good for this) in 500mls (16 fl oz)) hot water and mix everything together. Strain the mix to remove the garlic and store in a glass or plastic container. To use, dilute the garlic mix with ten times the amount of water and spray on insects. This is a contact spray so it has to be sprayed onto the insects, but it doesn't harm you or the plant.

Pick fresh leaves - you'll need about 30 leaves - wash them. Place the leaves in 2 cups of boiling water in a tea pot and allow to infuse for 5 minutes. Strain the leaves before drinking. A small teaspoon of honey is a delicious addition.

When I cut or burn myself, I squeeze the gel from a piece of aloe vera and rub it on. It always works well. Some people with sensitive skins may develop a rash using aloe vera, so test a small patch of skin before using it.

Pick a large bunch of paisley and about 2 tablespoons of mint leaves. Add to 500mls (16 fl oz)boiling water and allow to infuse for one hour, then strain through a fine filter. When cool, use this as a facial cleanser. It will store for three days.

Parsley and oregano.

Place 120 grams (4oz) fresh lavender flowers or rose petals in a china or ceramic (not aluminium) bowl and pour over 500 mls (16 fl oz) boiling water. Place a clean cotton cloth on top and allow to steep overnight. Strain off the flowers and store in a glass bottle. This is nice as a facial splash but I usually use it instead of plain water when spraying my ironing.


You can use herbs in so many ways and I could write about them all day and still not tell you all their wonderful uses. So next time you're at a friends house and see a herb you like, ask for a cutting and instructions on growing it. It might also help if you borrow a book on herbs from the library, they make fascinating reading. This is the most valuable website about herbs that I've found. It's the wonderful Isabel Shipard's site, full of information and enthusiasm for herbs and how we can use them.

25 September 2007

The organic house

Most of us see the sense of not spraying pesticides and herbicides in the garden, nor using chemical cleaners in our homes. There are many recipes for good garden bug sprays and cleaners so no one needs to resort to buying products that will help keep the bugs away and the house clean. That sensible thinking should also extend to how you manage the various bugs and pests in your home too. Flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches, ants, rats, mice, spiders and a whole range of other pests can be controlled with natural remedies too. And as usual, what is safe and environmentally sound is also frugal.

Good housekeeping plays a big part in keeping your home bug-free, so make sure your benches are clean, food isn't left lying around, your compost bucket has a lid on it, all your food is in containers, vacuum once a week and sweep daily. You should also block the places where bugs can enter. Blocking small holes to prevent creepy crawlies from entering your home is the first line of defense.

We do this in the garden too. Instead of spraying for fruit fly, we put exclusion bags on our fruit so the peaches can ripen naturally inside the bag where the fruit fly can't get at them. You'll see what I mean in the photo below. It also keeps the parrots away from the fruit.

Fly screens are a good way of keeping bugs and other pests out of your home. Fly screens on windows and doors are quite common in Australia and, I expect, in most other countries where flies and insects are a problem. If you have fly screens, make sure you look after them so they do the job they're intended for. Every couple of months, wipe the screens to remove dust and grime and check the rubber seals are firmly in place. If there is a tear in a screen, replace it.

So let's imagine you've blocked up all the holes, your fly screens are in place, but you're just about to serve up dinner and you see a fly. The best way to get rid of flies is with a fly swat. I grew up in the age before aerosol fly sprays and really hate them. You can easily kill flies with a swat and all you need then is to pick it up, either with the swat itself or a piece of scrap paper, put it in the bin or give it to the chooks. I keep my swat on top of the fridge and I make sure it's washed in hot soapy water every month or so to keep it clean. You can also use your fly swat to kill other insects like cockroaches, beetles and spiders.

Cockroaches can be a real pest in warm climates too. I have no idea how these creatures enter houses but I know once in, they're hard to get rid of. There is some very useful information here about natural cockroach baits. Boron or boric acid is available in Australia here or at most pharmacies and diatomaceous earth is available in Australia here or at garden centres. You can also make a cockroach bait by mixing borax and a little honey. Put it in an upturned lid in a dark near where you've seen cockroaches. Make sure borax and boron are well away from children and pets. They have a low toxicity but you always need to be cautious.

I have a selection of bug screens that I use on food too. I have milk jug covers that are used on any jugs I take outside, I also use it when I have a glass of water beside my bed at night. I use a little cotton cover for my sourdough (see below), which needs to be open to the air but protected from bugs. You can make a lovely outdoor food cover simply by cutting some netting or cotton to size and sewing a cotton border on it. So think about where you have problems with insects and make some covers to protect your food. Here is a pattern for a crocheted milk jug cover. Or you can make a very simple cover with some netting or fine cotton held down by buttons or shells. See what I use in this photo.

Organic fly spray (from Grass Roots Magazine)
1 tablespoon eucalyptus oil
1 teaspoon bergamot oil
5 tablespoons vodka
2 tablespoons white vinegar
5 cups water

Dissolve eucalyptus and bergamot oils in the vodka.
Add the vinegar and water and mix well.
Store in a spray bottle and shake before use.

General purpose bug spray
1 teaspoon of eucalyptus oil
1 teaspoon of liquid soap or ½ teaspoon of grated soap dissolved in water.
500ml of water

Mix the ingredients together in a small sprayer. Always shake thoroughly before each use. You have to spray this directly onto the bug.

Organic mosquito spray recipe here.

24 September 2007

Electricity usage

How are you all going with your electricity and water meter readings? I hope you have mastered the meters and are now doing weekly readings. It really will help you cut your usage back if you know what you're using a lot of electricity and water on. We've completely moved over to compact fluro globes in the entire house now, even the down lights and it's made a different in our bill. We bought four globes every month, or more if they were on special, so it didn't hit our small grocery budget too much while we were buying them. If you do this, replace the globes you use the most first.

One of the readers here, Wildside, has reduced her electricity bill a lot and I asked her to share her secrets. Here they are:
  • candlelight, kind of romantic, it hides the dust bunnies when you have company and forgives wrinkles -- everything/everyone looks better by candlelight!
  • strategically placed nightlights to light the way at night.
  • don't turn on an overhead light or lamp unless you have to -- and if you do, make it a nightlight or energy efficient bulb.
  • make good use of natural daylight.
  • think/talk in the dark -- it can be fun!
  • cook on a grill over coal fire outside year-round and think of it as fun -- and how much better food cooked this way tastes!
  • energy efficient fridge.
  • a smaller freezer.
  • consider manual appliances/power over electric -- or make use without some other way!
  • stretch your garden as far as possible and appreciate raw, simple food.
  • wash dishes by hand.
  • only run full loads of laundry and try to limit that to one per day maximum! (My rule: you can do far less than that, but not more!)
  • only run the dryer for 20 minutes then hang everything to finish drying (we live in a damp, rainy climate where stuff gets mildewy and there is a laundry law about hanging clothes outside in view anyway) ... 20 minutes is enough to give things a head start on drying and take the wrinkles out.
  • turn stove burner, oven off just before things are set to come out and let food finish on residual heat.
  • a better thing for us to do (or at least ½ of us [meaning me!]) would be to only use our computer and TV during hours of darkness as a rule... I think I'll decide to pick this habit up again -- we do use both the computer and TV a lot!

Thanks Wildside.


23 September 2007

Sewing and mending

I moved into my new sewing room yesterday. I haven't got everything exactly as I want it yet, I'm using pieces of furniture I'd rather not use, but I'm in there. The room used to be Hanno's office, it's where he did all his after hours work for the shop, and even now he has a cupboard in there, and drawers, as well as space on the desk. In Australia we have to keep business and tax records for seven years, so all that is being stored in "the sewing room". I'm pretending it's not there. : )

The room overlooks the front garden and there is a radio, so I expect to be quite comfy as I work on my mending and sewing. I'd like to eventually replace the melamine furniture with old wooden pieces and I have a friend, who is like a hawk collecting old bits and pieces, on the lookout for me. I'd like two old tables, a cupboard and a chest of drawers. But in the meantime I'm happy to work with what I've got and I'm thankful that I have this room as a workspace.

In the past few years I've discovered the "stash". I know those who patchwork and sew will smile at my innocence. Who knew there would be such beauty in all those pieces of fabric.

Early on in my search for a simpler life I realised that sewing, mending, knitting and homemade gifts would play a big part in what I did. I'd never been interested in crafts before, although my mother did try to teach me and my sister is a talented quilter. I toddled off on my own path, convinced they were old fashioned and would eventually catch up with me one day. LOL Oh the shame. I think my mother would love to see me know. I'm living like she used to, and what a fine roll model she is for me, even though she's been dead 14 years. I still remember how it used to be in our pre-plastic days and the skills my mother taught me all those years ago are finally being used. I am a slow learner sometimes.

I am trying to improve my sewing and knitting, I think they are skills that develop with repetition. Often when my sister visits, I get her to teach me how to do something I haven't been able to manage on my own and slowly I'm becoming more confident and happier with my finished work. Suzanne, who runs the sewing circle where I work, is going to teach me how to darn. I have a couple of jumpers that have small holes in them and they will have many more years of service when I fix those holes. Darning was the way women used to mend socks, jumpers and precious hand made clothes. Most women knew how to darn and mend but along with a lot of other useful activities, it's no longer common. In the past, women made do with what they had and it was seen as wasteful to throw something away simply because it had a hole in it. We need to get back into that mending mindset because the true cost of "cheap" clothes is damaging our environment.

One of the handicrafts I've discovered is stitchery, or as my grandma would call it, fancywork. I love drawing patterns and stitching them to see what they look like. They make wonderful gifts as they can be tailored to suit the person who will receive it and although they look complicated, they're quite simple and straight forward to make. Pictured above are two works in progress that will be given as Christmas gifts this year.

I have big plans for my little sewing room. I hope it will be a place of homely creativity, where clothes are given a second life, where my sewing talents develop, where fabric and stitch combine to produce beautiful gifts and where all aspects my simple life will continue to emerge and sustain us.


22 September 2007

Convincing your partner

One of the things I struggled with when I first decided I wanted to change the way we lived, was my husband's reaction to the change. He didn't understand why I wanted to change and then he decided such a change would be impossible.

What I proposed was to transition from a reasonably affluent middle class family with all the trappings of that, give up work completely, spend only on needs, reskill ourselves so we could supply ourselves with most of the services and products we relied on, to become more self reliant, independent and better able to look after ourselves.

While Hanno liked the idea of giving up paid work, he thought it was idealistic and unreasonable to think that two aging hipster doofuses could drop out and live without suffering financial consequences. So, his response when I posed the question was a firm NO!

Pffffffffft! Of course I did what any good wife would do. I went ahead with it anyway. LOL Initially what I did didn't include him at all. I had already closed down my writing business so my plan now was to show Hanno, that it could be done. I respected his decision but I didn't agree with it. I didn't know how much we would need to live on but I intended to find out.

The first thing I did was to completely change the way I shopped. I'd already given up frivolous shopping and now the only money I had on a regular basis was the grocery money. It was my only tool, so I used it. You all know how I shop - I stockpile, I make and grow as much as I can and always cook from scratch - so I went from spending $300 a week on groceries to spending much less by using those new (to me) methods. I started an emergency fund and put the leftover grocery money in it. I didn't tell Hanno what I was doing and he didn't notice a change in the quality of our food or that I'd stopped buying any chemical cleaners.

Over the months I built up our vegetable garden, bought more chooks, taught myself to bake good bread, bought a preserver on eBay and taught myself how to preserve food in a water bath. And I read everything I could get my hands on. Books were the last things I gave up buying because I needed a few good books to learn from, and those books lead me to others. I researched online too, joined an American frugal forum and learnt as much as I could there. All the time I never mentioned what I was doing or why.

By the time I again brought up the subject of Hanno giving up work, our two sons had left home (they both returned again a few times) and there was just the two of us to look after. Over the years, Hanno has been the best husband and father anyone could hope for. He's been a really hard worker and has never been out of work in all the time I've known him. So I guess the pressure of providing for a family was off and he was willing to look at the possibility of him leaving work. But the thing that showed him it might be possible was seeing the amount of money I had saved from our normal grocery money.

He could see that we didn't need a large amount of money to live on. We were growing a lot of our own vegetables and eggs, fruit trees had been planted and things were progressing nicely in the vegetable garden. He could now see the potential of providing many of our own needs from our back yard. And, of course, we didn't need a lot of money to feed and clothe ourselves anymore, and, most importantly, we had no debt. I'd done up a budget and it showed that we could live on $400 a week, and that included our rates, groceries, insurances, car and dog registrations, everything. When he saw it, he was almost convinced we could do it.

Not long after that we closed our shop in Montville and started the free fall into our new life. Hanno applied for an old age pension which helped cover some of our ongoing expenses. We'd never been in the welfare system before and it was a bit of an eyeopener for both of us. But we coped. He wasn't completely convinced we could do it until we'd lived the life for six months. Then he realised that, yes, it is possible!

I think that when it comes to change one partner usually tends to see the possibilities before the other. It is frustrating for both parties because one is convinced it can be done and the other is convinced it can't be. I took the soft approach, and it worked. I thought the best way to show it could be done, was to do it. Everyone who is shopping for groceries each week can do what I did. You can show your partner that cutting costs is not only possible, it's sustainable. And when you save all that money with out him knowing, and you suddenly produce it, it opens up all sorts of possibilities.

So if you have a partner who is hesitant about your life change, try to change yourself and what you do before you try to change him/her. Showing by example is a very powerful way of teaching and it just might work for you.

Emails and the napkin swap

I've been very busy all week and haven't had a chance to reply to the many emails that have come in. I love getting emails, and love hearing from people who read my blog. Please don't think I'm ignoring you, I intend replying to as many as I can as soon as I finish my main post today. Thanks to all for your patience.

And just a gentle reminder - there is just over a week until the napkins need to be posted to swap partners. The deadline is Monday October 1. There were so many ladies who joined this swap it overwhelmed me trying to match them all up. Luckily for me, Sharon stepped in and asked if I needed help. Did I! I think we have everyone sorted and I think we accommodated everyone, even the late comers. So thank you to Sharon for all your work behind the scenes. If you join the next swap, I'm going against my mad method of blindly stabbing names on a pad with a pencil to choose my swap partner. I hope you'll be my partner so I can send a little gift of thanks.

21 September 2007

Peak Oil and living the simple life

I try to be non-political in my blog. I don't really see the point of talking about what should be done when everyone has such widely differing views on most political topics. I am usually suspicious of bloggers who write about what everyone should be doing but don't appear to be doing anything themselves. I try to be more practical here, I try to show how living a simple sustainable life will help all of us, no matter what the reason for living that way.

However, I listened to a radio broadcast (podcast here, her bit is half way through it) the other day and am still thinking about it now. It was about an Australian woman and her response to Peak Oil. Her philosophy is almost identical to mine and she clearly pointed out why we all need to prepare for ever increasing oil prices. So I thought that just this once, on this important subject, I'll talk about a political subject. If you don't want to read, that's fine, come back tomorrow when I'll be back to the more practical but this topic does effect us all.

Peak Oil is the point at which the global extraction of oil reaches its peak and starts to decline, and the cost of extracting oil goes up. The problem with this is that there are very few new oil discoveries and countries like India and China, which both have huge populations, are now using a lot more oil. China's population is currently on 1.3 billion and India's is now 1.1 billion. It is predicted that in the next 50 years, their combined population will be 3.5 billion. The population of the US is now 301 million and they use most of the world's oil. The US projected population in 50 years is 420 million.

And there is no more cheap oil.

So as oil production is decreasing there is a massive increase in demand. No doubt many of those newly affluent people in India and China will buy cars and use a lot more oil, but cars and fuel aren't the only thing we have to worry about with Peak Oil. Peak Oil is also about food and the irrigation and transport of it, as well as the products that are made with oil, like plastics.

For me, Peak Oil means that I need to provide as much as I can for myself. No one can predict what will happen in the future, but I'm sure that if oil is increasingly expensive, food and groceries prices will rise, so will the price of fuel, electricity and gas as well as many other things that we all use. We all need to be well informed, so find out as much as you can about Peak Oil. If you don't believe there will be a problem, do some research and see what you find. I think there is no doubt, but everyone sees things with different eyes.

Once you're informed, or if you already are, you'll need to work out a plan for your own family. Part of that plan should be to skill yourself in as many areas of food production, cooking, preserving and home management as you can. Everyone needs to reduce their debt as much as possible or get rid of it completely. The future will be much easier if you have no debt.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that food production and home management are my main subjects. Peak Oil is one of the reasons for that but I also believe that living a simple life is better for us and the planet than the product driven lifestyle that I left behind. This simple life is more enriching, it satisfies the soul, it makes me a better person and it's an easy way to live. So my blog will continue to discuss how to live well in your own home and I promise not to return again to the political without a compelling reason. So let's get on with it, let's learn how to live well.

20 September 2007

Happy birthday Lenny!

I hope you see this today. Everyone, Lenny is one of my adopted online daughters. I have several, some volunteered, some I claimed. : ) Nice gift you got, love. Hanno loves his bike, he's got a basket attached to the back bracket now.

I hope you have a lovely evening with your family and rest up so that cold goes. Take care. I send love and hugs.

Our daily bread

This bread is incredibly easy to make. Today, instead of a loaf, I've made bread rolls. I'm having one soon with some tomato and boiled egg. : )

I want to thank everyone who left a birthday message for H, who, incidentally, has asked to be called by his full name now - Hanno. So Hanno asked me to thank every one of you. He sat down and listened while I read out the comments and he was pleased and a bit surprised to receive good wishes from all around the world. So thank you. You helped contribute to a lovely day.

He went on his first jaunt on the bike this morning - to the shops to pick up the mail and some milk. We bought him a helmet yesterday - asked for a discount and got one, so he's all set up for some free wheeling around the neighbourhood. Maggie, yes, helmets are compulsory here too and have been for donkey's years.


Living well on a pension

Michelle posed an interesting question over at aussieslivingsimply this morning. She asked "Is it possible to live well on the age pension?" For our international readers, the age pension is paid to citizens of Australia after they reach the age of 65 - men and women. Michelle says the pension is $877 per couple per fortnight, or $438.50 a week. We live well on less than that. H is on an age pension (I'm only 59 so I have another five years before I can claim), we also have some share investments and money in the bank, but we made a conscious decision to give up a more lavish lifestyle and live on $400 a week.

It would be very difficult to live on this amount if you had debt or were paying rent, although I think there is a rent allowance if you do pay rent. But overall, I have to say it's possible to live on the pension, to live well, to enjoy yourself and to save.

Like just about everything else, you need to be organised and have a plan. If you go from week to week without one, you'd quickly fall on your face. We have a budget that we stick to - our budget is our spending guide which enables us to buy what we need, pay all our bills and save $150 a month. It's not a lot, but it pays for a holiday every year. In our former lives, $150 would have paid for a new pair of shoes, now it's much more valuable to us. We value our time more now so we'd never spend that amount on something so trivial. We're different people, we've changed our lives and the way we look at spending and possessions.

I've written before about how we break up our budget here, and in a few posts that follow that one, so I won't go into the details of it again, suffice to say that we couldn't do it without a budget or spending plan, and by being frugal. Thrift is the glue that holds our lifestyle together. We don't spend on things that don't give us true value. We gave away pay TV, flying, expensive clothes and shoes, magazines and most newspapers, brand name groceries, new cars every few years, eating out at restaurants, paying for someone to iron and clean, giving expensive gifts and pampering ourselves with what money buys. We are still pampered, but it's with healthier things like relaxing with a good (library) book on the front verandah and having the time to really enjoy our garden; we eat well, in fact we eat better now than we ever have with a lot of fresh, organic food rather than stale supermarket food; we don't miss 99% of pay TV and magazines. I'd still love to watch Martha and I'd still love to have my favourite magazine - British Country Living, but that's all I miss and it's not a big deal to miss something, it makes me stronger and I am better for it. And all the other things we gave up are nothing, we don't miss or think about them now. Our lives are better and we are happier than we've ever been.

We still pay for top cover private health insurance, we still have our dogs, we have a reliable car and whenever we have to buy something, we shop around and make sure we are getting the best value for our dollars. All those things are covered in that $400 a week.

So we are proof that living well on a pension is possible. We couldn't have done it without changing the way we see possessions and success. Success to us now is not a new car, it's whether the tomatoes have a bigger crop than they did last year. Our success now is seeing our sons mature and live their own lives well. We've taken the emphasis off money, we realise now that you don't read about true quality on a label but rather by the smile on someone's face or in the feeling of satisfaction after a hard days work. True happiness isn't about getting everything your heart desires, it's more about reaching your genuine potential and living a life that reflects that. And, ladies and gentlemen, I'm happy to say, you can do that on $400 a week, and probably less.

19 September 2007

Housework routines

Monday is washing day
Tuesday is ironing day
Wednesday is mending day
Thursday is market day
Friday is cleaning day
Saturday is baking day
Sunday is a day of rest

Of course, most women didn't just do that chore on that day, they also did their general house work and often had time to visit with neighbours, join sewing circles and play with the children. It was a much more relaxed way of living that was centered around the family and home.

Things have changed. There are now more women working outside the home, often grandmothers look after grandchildren while the mums are at work, many couples work at different times so there is always someone with the children, stay at home mums sometimes have a hobby/job they work on at home during the day, others homeschool. Some SAHMs care for elderly parents, some volunteer their time to schools or other community organisations. Life is lived at a faster pace now and there is no one size fits all when it comes to housework routines.

How you organise your housework will depend on whether you work outside the home or not, how many people you're looking after and at what stage of life you're at. When I had two young babies just 12 months apart, I found not only was I washing on Monday, but also most other days of the week. Now I wash only on Wednesdays. Everyone is different and your routine will change at different stages of your life.

No matter what stage of life you're at it's a really good idea to develop a housework routine. That will take the huge and often overwhelming task of "housework" and break it down into smaller and manageable parts. You can either make up your routine to do your work room by room or you could do a specific chore on a certain day, much like the verse. If you're like me, and have only one other person, or just yourself to look after, maybe you could have a routine which is similar to mine. My routine is similar day by day with changes only for washing, ironing and shopping, which is done once a month.

This is my general routine - it's a loose kind of thing that can easily be changed if friends drop by or I realise I have to work on an unplanned project.

Rise and shower.
Work on the computer until H rises.
Feed dogs and cat.
Make breakfast and wash up.
Check chooks, feed and change water, collect eggs.
Make the bed, tidy the bedroom and bathroom.
Make bread and tidy the kitchen.
Sweep the floor, vacuum once a week.
Once a week I bake biscuits or a cake.
Morning tea.
Gardening, sewing or writing.
Make lunch and wash up.
Tidy one area of the house - like the lounge room, the laundry etc I spend no longer than 30 minutes on this.
Writing, sewing or computer.
Make dinner and wash up.

Every Wednesday I do the washing, hang it outside and fold it when it's dry.
Every Sunday morning I do the ironing.
Once a month, on a Wednesday, I go grocery shopping with H.

There are also seasonal jobs to be done. Such as in summer, I do a bit of preserving. That's always done in the morning. In Winter and Spring there is more gardening to be done.

I find that if I break up my housework with ideas about when I'll do certain things, it stops me thinking of "housework" as one big uncontrollable monster; it turns into tasks that will be done at certain times.

If you haven't thought about your housework in an organised way yet, give it some thought and make up your own routine. Write down what needs to be done. You don't have to itemise every task, go for whole areas - like vacuum house, clean the bathrooms, or divide the tasks up so that, like the verse above, you're doing one major task on one day, with a few little tasks with it. Don't be afraid to modified your routine to suit how you work and who is there to help, if anyone. If you find something doesnt work as you planned, change it.

When you've worked on your routine for a week or so and it is working how you want it to, stick to it and hopefully it will help you do the work that is required to keep your home clean and well maintained. Don't forget to take time out to have morning tea and to look after yourself. Sitting down with a magazine for a 15 minute break will give you something to look forward to, renew your energy and will break up the tasks for you.


He turns 67 today. I picked up his gift on the way home from work yesterday and here he is just after I gave it to him. He was really pleased with the bicycle and rode around with Alice running behind. I love making him happy.


18 September 2007

Tips for a perfect wash

I usually use cold water in my washing machine, I will do a hot water wash only on whites. I use homemade laundry powder (recipe here) and I always treat stains before I put them into the washing machine. I have a front-loading, five star washing machine. I’ve washed this way for years. I’ve never had a problem with dirty clothes, colours that fade too quickly or hygiene problems with underwear, tea towels or tablecloths.

Always pre-treat stains
For small new stains use the homemade laundry powder mixed into a paste and apply the paste to the stain. Leave for 15 minutes, rub over the stain and then wash as normal in the washing machine. Most new stains, if treated just after the spill, will respond to this treatment. If you have a really dirty item, fill a nine litre bucket with hot water, place in a cap full of a non-chlorinated bleach powder or nappy soaker, dissolve the powder in the water and soak the dirty item in the bucket, preferably overnight, or at least until the water is cold. After this treatment you can wash the garment as normal in your washing machine. This treatment usually removes the worst stains.

Read the care labels
Be guided by the labels on your clothing but use your common sense when dealing with your laundry. If the label reads “dry clean only”, try a delicate hand wash on a small portion of the item to test for colourfastness and durability. If that small piece dries well, you can hand wash the entire piece. I’ve done this with clothes over the years with no ill effects. Always try to hand wash it as it will save you paying for dry cleaning and it will also save you from chemicals used in the dry cleaning process.

One ward of caution here. If you start hand washing, you should always hand wash it. If you dry clean, always dry clean. You can’t swap between processes.

Sorting the washing
I used to think this was a thorough waste of time. Now I do it routinely. It’s worth the effort. Remember when sorting before washing, also turn clothes out the correct way and empty the pockets. You can also check for stains at this point. If the stain is not removed by hand washing prior to machine washing, then it will have to be treated and soaked according to the instructions above.

Sort you clothes into piles before you start your washing. The basic sorting is to sort whites from everything else. If you have a pile of white clothes, it might contain things like white t-shirts, tablecloths, underwear or nighties. It’s fine to wash all these things together, although you might want to put your underwear into a mesh washing bag to keep them all together and to stop the bras and fine shoulder straps tangling with other clothing.

The next level of sorting will depend on the size of your family and the washing you have to do. If you have a big family, you can probably have a load for jeans, one for towels, one for cottons and so on. If you have little washing to do, you may just sort the whites from the darks or the heavy materials, like jeans, from the delicates.

Make sure you don’t wash new towels with dark clothes as you’ll get lint on the dark things and always be careful with red clothing. If you can, wash red with other bright colours or hand wash it if you know the colour will run. I have a red top that never runs but I have other red clothes that, no matter, how many times they are washed, they still shed some red pigment in every wash. If in doubt, test for colourfastness or hand wash.

When it's all washed, I hang the washing on the line to dry. I have a dryer, I never use it. Hanging washing outside allows the sun to give an extra bit of cleaning as UV radiation kills bacteria and prevents fungi from spreading. Don't leave the clothes on the line too long though as, over time, it will fade bright colours. There are two lovely side effects of line drying - seeing your clean clothes gently swaying in the breeze and smelling the sun in the clothes when you bring them inside. There is nothing better than sleeping on newly laundered sheets that have been dried in the sun.


17 September 2007

A busy week

It will be a busy week this one. I'm off to my volunteer job today and tomorrow with, no doubt, a million things happening there. Tomorrow we host the Minister for Communities at morning tea when he visits our Centre. I am making tea and scones with homemade strawberry jam and local jersey cream. I hope that helps with future funding submissions. ; )

I'll be posting a few things at the post office while I'm out, including my napkins. Prepare for incoming, Deb. Would the lady who asked me about soap a long time ago please email again. I've lost your address. Thanks.

The photo above was taken yesterday from one of the bedrooms. It shows almost the entire length of our house. H is still painting - he's in my new sewing room now, so he had the vacuum cleaner out because he was sanding the doors down. The doors will be painted today, we are using Smoke Rings - a very light grey colour. That light brownish door just on the left of the green cupboard, is my stockpile cupboard. Those doors will be replaced to match the doors in the new kitchen.

It's H's 67th birthday on Wednesday. I'm taking him to the local tea house for lunch and I've ordered him a new bicycle, with basket. He wants to cycle to the shops to collect the mail each day and needs the basket for that and if he needs to pick up milk or a newspaper. I know he'll be really surprised. I hope he likes it. I will pick it up from the local bicycle shop on my way home from work tomorrow. The man said he'll have it assembled and attach the basket for me. I hope I can fit it in the car for the trip home.

I made tea cake muffins yesterday. They're a lovely light cake topped with cinnamon sugar and here you see one as part of my morning tea yesterday. It can be made as a tea cake or as I have done here, as muffins. It's a quick and simple recipe and well worth the making:

Tea Cake

  • 125 grams butter (¼ lb)
  • 2 eggs
  • tablespoon lemon zest
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1½ cups self raising flour OR 1½ cups plain/all purpose flour with 1½ teaspoons of baking powder sifted in
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ tablespoon cinnamon + 1 tablespoon sugar for the topping
Place all ingredients, except the topping, in a bowl and beat for two minutes. Place in a small round cake tin, or a muffin try, and cook on 180C for about 15 minutes. When you take them from from the oven, brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle on combined sugar and cinnamon.

Wednesday afternoon, after lunch at the tea house, we're going to the local kitchen showroom to look at new kitchens. Thursday and Friday will be spent on housework and the garden. I think my sister is coming to visit the following week. Hopefully along the way I can do some work on the ebook and of course, I'll be blogging each day. It's another week full of interesting and satisfying things to do. I hope your week is the same.


15 September 2007

Rising prices, what can we do?

I've heard some disturbing reports in the last couple of days from farmers and meteorologists stating that unless we get good rain in Australia - particularly the inland of Victoria and New South Wales, then we could be in for "catastrophic crop losses". There are many reports from reputable government agencies that in coming months the price of food will skyrocket, especially if the drought continues. Other reports state that prices will rise because of the drought and oil prices. The increase in the production of biofuels has helped push up the price of grains.

Some of our primary food producers are on their last legs and one farmer on the ABC last night said that he has been farming for 50 years and has never seen the number of people on smaller farms leaving the land as they are now. If you only read one of the linked reports here, read this one from The Australian. This report in The Age newspaper states that food prices will rise by 50% in the next five years.

Unfortunately, it isn't just Australia facing this problem, it is world-wide. Wheat and oil prices effect world food prices, and I expect that if you did a google search about food prices in your own country, you'd find a similar story.

Simply put, if the drought continues and if oil prices continue to rise, we are in trouble. I don't want to scare anyone and, by nature, I am not a panic merchant, but I've never seen it like this in my lifetime. We all need to prepare for the worst but expect the best. Hopefully the rains will come and all this will fade off into our memories, like the Y2K Bug. But if it doesn't we must be prepared for it.

With the rises in prices we have to think also about the flow-on effect it has on other products. When wheat prices rise, that effects the price of bread, meat, chicken, pasta, eggs, milk and all the items made with these products. A rise in the price of milk and eggs will effect just about all processed food prices like cakes, desserts, processed tinned and frozen foods, ice cream, biscuits/cookies, etc.

We all need to be prepared for this. H and I have a healthy stockpile, laying chooks, water tanks, gardens full of organic fruit and vegetables, and our aquaponics system of vegetables and fish, but we will be auditing our stockpile in the coming week to see what we need to buy to supplement those fresh supplies. I know right now that we'll buy more flour, rice and vegetable seeds. I have secure places to store these things and I know they won't go off.

I want to revisit the subject of stockpiling groceries. I have written about it before here but I want to urge you all to start your stockpiles now, or top them up. Already the cost of wheat and milk has risen, so bread and eggs will rise soon too. Even if you can only stockpile things like flour, rice and other grains it will help. Stockpiling won't insulate you from the rising price of food and fuel, but it will help delay the impact and it will also lessen it.

If you haven't yet started a stockpile, now would be a good time to start. If you have one, check it and stock up on everything you eat that will keep in your cupboard or freezer. It's Spring in Australia, so if you are in Oz, now is the best time to start growing your own fruit and vegetables. I have a feeling that food prices won't be going down again in a hurry. Having a vegetable garden will help, so if you have water tanks or enough water from other sources, think about starting or enlarging the vegetable garden.

Another thing we can all do it to learn how to make more things from scratch. Bread, cakes, biscuits, drinks, jams, sauces and relishes are all easily made at home and will help provide healthy interesting food from your own garden and stockpile. If you're not already cooking from scratch, now is the time to start. Cooking from scratch doesn't mean cooking with tins of soup or other processed ingredients, it means cooking everything from basic unprocessed ingredients. Also think about making your own laundry detergent and soap. They're easy to make and you will save money doing it.

I am really interested in knowing what others think about this. What, if anything, are you doing to prepare? Do you have any suggestions you can share that will help lessen the impact of the drougth and rising prices?

Read through the links I've added here and if you all want to discuss this further, I could write some more about it in the coming week. We are still in a period where the prices haven't risen too much, so now is the time to do something.

ABC article on rising prices.
Courier Mail article on rising price of potatoes.

An american list for a healthy stockpile.
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